National Viola and Pansy Society Newsletter Autumn 1996

Show Pansies - The Cinderellas.

Of the three florist blooms, Fancy Pansy, Viola and Show Pansy, it is the last which has suffered the greatest decline and come closest to extinction. It was the original florist bloom, bred to exacting standards of form and carefully selected for rigid colour definition, to be categorised as either Yellow or White Grounds, or Yellow, White or Purple Selfs. A Dobbies catalogue of 1898 lists 116 named varieties at 3/6d per dozen. Roy Genders, in 1958, lists only 11 - none of which have survived. However, their downfall may he plotted from the advent of the Fancy Pansy in the middle of the nineteenth century; these giving a much wider. and therefore attractive range of colour, Browsing Society records through this century, it is clear that the Show Pansy's popularity has slithered ever downward, and but for Scottish growers, it would have most likely disappeared. Our own Society's schedule lists only one class for six, while at Ayr there are five classes in which they may be shown; so opportunities to exhibit are very restricted. As some members have found to their cost, an exhibit of Show Pansies at a local show is unlikely to catch the judge's eye when shaded by much larger blooms lacking the good form. The odds would seem to te stacked against any revival, but should we not consider some possible progress?

It seems clear that a wider range of colour is necessary, for at present the majority of Show Pansies in existence are variations of yellow. This makes discrimination between varieties quite difficult in some cases, and the viewing of a 12 board a rather monotonous event, except for the dedicated purist. A little progressive hybridizing and a slight change to the rule book might be in order. Within modern seed strains we have colour genes unavailable to 19th century growers - red, blue and orange grounds must be possible, and what of the margined varieties? Of course, form must he maintained, and the few remaining varieties carry the genes. I am told that a marbled seedling has appeared in Scotland, Anathema to a purist, but should we be so rigid in colour standard?

Visitors to my collection often glance over Ann, Tom and Penelope; but Blackfaulds Gem often invites closer inspection. Its lack of size is usually commented upon, I then explain the dimensions of a perfect Show Pansy, I can only hope that a few new varieties emerge in the not too distant future and so begin a small revival.

Autumn 1996

Editorial News Show Pansies Annual Show
Mr Jackson Scottish Shows National Collection King's Heath
Plant Distribution

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